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The Joy of the Family

“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”  That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.

Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors.  It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.

The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.”  The family, thus,  is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.

To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.

It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.  


APRIL 2018 - THE JOY OF PASSIONATE LOVE

OPENING PRAYER

Risen Lord,
       your passion and resurrection revealed the human body in glory
       with scars transformed through selfless sacrifice.
We too proclaim your glory
       in honoring the unique gift of a husband and wife
       united in love before God and the Church.
Help all families bear witness
       to the unconditional, passionate love
       revealed in your wounds.
We ask this in the name of God the Father,
       who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
       now and forever. Amen.

READINGS

Genesis 2:20-24

 The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.  So, the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.  When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this ne shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one body. 

AMORIS LAETITIA

"Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called ‘the passions,’ all have an important place in married life." N. 143

The Second Vatican Council Teaches that this conjugal love ‘embraces the good of the whole person; it can enrich the sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unique dignity and ennoble then as the special features and manifestation of the friendship proper to marriage.’  For this reason, love lacking either pleasure or passion is insufficient to symbolize the union of the human heart with God: ‘All the mystics have affirmed that supernatural love, and heavenly love find the symbols which they seek in marital love, rather than in friendship, filial devotion or devotion to a cause.  And the reason is to be found preciously in its totality.  (n. 142)

CONTEMPLATE & SHARE

When, if ever, does your family talk about the gift of the human body and the responsibilities of treating each person with dignity?

How are you treating your body right now? Would others know it is a temple of the Holy Spirit by how you care for your own physical health?

What have you learned about God’s love through your married life, especially through the physical expressions of your relationship over time?

Have you ever experienced a time when passion or pleasure was absent from your marriage? How was your relationship as a couple, or your faith as an individual, challenged in these moments?

INTERCESSIONS

Easter Sunday, March 31/April 1 - That our Easter celebration may help all married couples imitate the selfless, passionate love of Christ’s death and resurrection, we pray to the Lord

Second Sunday of Easter / Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7/8 - That all families may bear witness to the unconditional, passionate love revealed in the wounds of Christ, we pray to the Lord: 

Third Sunday of Easter, April 14/15 That all believers may walk in faith with Christ, especially as he reveals his passionate love in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we pray to the Lord:

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 21/22 - That the gift of salvation, which comes from Christ alone, may inspire all families to build their homes on him, the cornerstone of our faith, we pray to the Lord:

Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 28/29 - That we, as the children of God, may love passionately, that is, in deed and in truth, just as Christ commanded us, we pray to the Lord:

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Married Couples

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of husband and wife
so that we might reflect
the union of Christ with His Church:
look with kindness on us.
Renew our marriage covenant.
Increase your love in us,
and strengthen our bond of peace
so that, [with our children],
we may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

JOY IN ACTION

Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider

April 1 - Spend some extra time with the Risen Lord. Linger with him after Mass, make a point of attending a weekday Mass, or take part in Eucharistic Adoration. Many parishes have special Holy Hours on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8.

April 8 -  As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, find a charitable activity to do together as a couple or a family.

April 15 - Take an Emmaus walk with a loved one. Bring the Emmaus reading along to pause and reflect upon along the way. Share the times in your life when you have and haven’t recognized Jesus’ presence in your life or your marriage.

April 22 -  As we celebrate Earth Day, reflect on whether you’re showing love and concern for our common home and what you might be able to do differently.

April 29 - Share your favorite Scripture passage with your loved one or read the Song of Songs and pick out a favorite passage to share.

REFLECTION

The Joy of Passionate Love

By: Theresa & Brian Griffin, St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, Houlton

“And the two shall be as one” and “the gift of self” are two phrases that have helped us in our journey to be better spouses.  The idea of passion within the marriage is important, and the challenge is to continue to have passion throughout the years.   Pure, holy, passionate, conjugal love – what couple would not want to achieve these ideals in their marriage?   Like all couples, we had great dreams of such high standards in our relationship.   We desired to have this physical closeness with each other; something we shared with no other.  We brought into our relationship all of the false notions and concepts that saturate our culture about love.   It is hard not to notice the magazines in the checkout aisles claiming to have the way to great passion, but this love is only fleeting and a feeble attempt to capture what can only be truly found in marriage.

Theresa's Reflection: As we embarked on our journey, the Holy Spirit was right there with us pouring grace upon us.  However, at times, it was incredibly difficult for me to accept that grace.   When we were dating and then first engaged, I was too fearful of our relationship coming to an end to bring up the subject of Natural Family Planning (NFP) for discussion.   At the time, it was a radical idea.  We both strongly felt called to the vocation of marriage, yet felt equally as strong that we were not being called to start our family at that point in our lives.   I dcided to bury my feelings and to receive a prescription for artificial contraception.  I still vividly remember the horrible darkness that settled over me as soon as I made that decision.   We were preparing for what was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives and I was experiencing an enormous sense of dread.  There was no way I could share this with Brian.  I was trapped and in turmoil.  I felt I had sold out the Lord for the man I loved. 

Dying inside, I visited a clinic to speak with someone who could, hopefully, help me deal with everything I was going through.   Much to my surprise, the counselor had just returned from a conference on women’s health.  There, she had picked up a brochure about a new, scientifically proven method of fertility regulation.  She reached into the drawer, pulled out a pamphlet, and passed it over to me.  The booklet was titled “Natural Family Planning.” Tears filled my eyes.  It was the hand of God.    Sick to my stomach with anxiety, I made my decision.

After much prayer to find the strength and courage, I poured out my heart to Brian.  On that day, Brian died to himself.  In an act of unselfish love, he put aside all he had learned from our culture and chose to do what was the best for me – for my sake.  It made all the difference to me as it lifted me up and allowed me to live out my life to the fullest, becoming the person God was calling me to be.

Brian's Reflection:  Although agreeable to using NFP for child spacing at the time, neither of us realized how this would be so important in our marriage.   In my medical practice, it was only after I realized the harmful effects of artificial birth control and my subsequent pursuit for a better option that I came to know the true benefits of NFP -- for example, the ability to know when you are fertile as a couple and then to know during which specific marital act you will have the opportunity to be “co-creating” with God.  A new life is truly an amazing thing.

In addition, this pursuit for information on NFP led me to learn about the Theology of the Body.  In his writings Pope Saint John Paul II teaches how we are to be a “gift of self” to our spouse.  This means we must offer our whole self and not hold anything back including our fertility.  Also, by our very nature of being male and female, we are designed to be together and to become one in marriage.   During the marital act, we literally become one, and remembering this has led me to more greatly appreciate what we have in our marriage.  Throughout our married life, I am continuing to look for small ways during the day to be a gift of self.  Simple things like shoveling a path to the garage, so my wife doesn’t have to wade through deep snow to get to the car, or doing the dishes, even when she tells me she’ll take care of it, are simple sacrifices which make me a better person and improve our relationship by living out what we are called to do by God.

Keeping passion within a marriage is very important and takes an active role by both spouses.  I have found by doing this, even after 34 years of marriage, we have maintained passion in our marriage, and I still look forward to the times we are able to be together in the most intimate way.